So it turns out I didn’t get a Fulbright. But as Tracy Chapman once eloquently put it, “it’s okay.”
And it really is. Super disappointing, yes. And unexplainable, certainly. But it’s also okay. Nothing has changed and my life is filled with no less dopeness. I just don’t get any U.S. money to fund that dopeness.
I’m actually just glad to finally know. The question had begun to quietly consume me. I didn’t mention it to anyone (well, maybe my mom), trying to give the impression that I thought about it as little as everyone else did. But in reality, I was thinking about it more and more everyday.
Obsession was not my intention. I planned not to think about it until the news came. And I thought that would be easy – you know, with all the distractions of life and everything. I had put the application pretty much out of my mind from september until january. It felt quite remote and out of my control – silly to worry about it. And the fact that I was planning a move also helped to keep my mind off of whether the powers-that-be liked me or not.
And then, at the end of january, I received an email telling me I was a finalist. Suddenly it became a real possibility. Someone actually read my application, thought it made sense, looked at my transcripts, wasn’t amused, and decided I potentially could be worthy of a fulbright. I was recommended by the institute for international education (i think), along with about twice as many people who could actually receive a grant. So although I had gotten over a huge hurdle in the first round, I was estimating about a 50 percent chance of getting it. Not the worst odds. But nothing to plan a life around.
For the first couple of months I was good. Knowing I probably wouldn’t hear anything before april or may, I barely thought about it. But then one fateful day in march, I googled some combination of words to end up on a forum of other finalists. Hundreds of posts about each of their worries and restless nights as they awaited news in the mail. And to make it worse, it came with a google spreadsheet. It listed country after country, each attached to a screen name and the hopes and dreams of people I felt suddenly akin to. Their obsessive comments only stated what I hadn’t been allowing myself to think or feel until then. How wonderful it would be…how long and challenging the process has been…how much money is it, actually? But the major theme was when we would receive our letters. Volunteers took turns emailing the fulbright people to ask for notification updates for the various countries. Mail delivery trends were discussed at length. A few countries’ finalists were notified early, in february and early march. From them we learned that acceptances arrived in large manilla envelopes. Rejections and alternates received small white envelopes. It all played out in the forum and the spreadsheet. Although I never posted anything, I was hooked, checking both pages multiple times a day.
They seemed to be mostly college students – some applying for english teaching assistantships, others applying for full grants, which is what I applied for. And as they discussed the subtle inconveniences of the campus mailman’s limp, and whether or not they would have lives after graduation, I read each post as if it pertained to me. It dramatically increased my anxiety.
The worst of it was when someone posted a message to those of us applying to the netherlands. First I was just happy to see something relevant. But then I read on to learn that our letters had been sent out that day – a friday.
My mail is forwarded from my brooklyn address to this mail receiving company in texas. Once they receive something, they list it in my inbox with a description of the envelope, including the sender and the weight. So although I would have to wait for them to actually forward the letter to me in amsterdam, I knew I would basically know if it was good or bad news once the letter arrived in texas. And based on my best guesses about the post office, I estimated I would hear by the following thursday or friday.
The following friday night I received an email notifying me of new mail received. I knew what it was. After a little pep talk, reminding myself that circumstances will be great no matter the outcome, I “checked my mail.” It was a letter. And only .125 lbs. Nothing special about it was listed. It was definitely not good news. My heart sunk. My secret forum friends wouldn’t hear about this.
And sure enough, once the letter finally reached me, it was still bad news. Not even an alternate. Just a flat out rejection. It certainly put the f-u- in fulbright!
But yeah, so, anyway….
I strongly believe in a universe that has plans for me. And ever since I stopped fighting it (sometime last year, I think), allowing myself to trust the process, things have become more sensible and much brighter. But it’s been easy to trust the process when it brings one good thing after another. The challenge is seeing the long-term good intentions of the process when in the short-term it feels like a blow. But that’s all it is: bad news for now that will somehow lead to something else great. I’m sure.
Thanks to all of you who have been so supportive and currently have a sympathetic frown on your face. It’s felt and much appreciated.
And it’s okay!